It’s my great pleasure to announce that the book “Thailand Unhinged” — a draft of which had been posted here in early January — was released today by Equinox Publishing (click here for the press release). It comes with a new subtitle: “Unraveling the Myth of a Thai-Style Democracy.” The blurb on the back reads as follows:
Thailand Unhinged offers a trenchant analysis of Thai politics and society over the tumultuous years that followed the ouster of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thailand’s ongoing political crisis is explained through the prism of the country’s painful post-absolutist history — a history marred by the systematic sabotage of any meaningful democratic development, the routine hijacking of democratic institutions, and the continued suffocation of the Thai people’s democratic aspirations orchestrated by an unelected ruling class in an increasingly desperate attempt to hold on to its power. The book includes scathing critiques of both Thaksin’s administration as well as the military-backed government that came to power in late 2008, following the week-long siege of the country’s busiest airports staged by the “yellow shirts” of the People’s Alliance for Democracy. The essays are written in a provocative, confrontational style — making Thailand Unhinged a decidedly unconventional mix of academic scholarship, literary journalism, and radical pamphleteering.
The book will be available at online retailers, among them of course Amazon.com (click here for the book’s Amazon page), as well as select bookstores in Southeast Asia. While Equinox will pitch it to bookstores in Thailand, it remains to be seen whether it will be distributed there (or, if so, for how long). Though I did make a serious attempt to steer clear of violating Thailand’s thought crime legislation, that’s not the only reason why bookstores might elect not to carry it.
For those who read a previous draft and liked it, and those who downloaded the draft but didn’t go through it yet, there are at least three reasons why it makes sense to buy this book. First, the printed version comes in a beautiful package. The cover, in particular, is alone worth the price of the entire book. Thanks to the generosity of Chatchai Puipia — easily one of the most talented artists of his generation — I am proud to feature the stunning (and delightfully haunting) painting “Siamese Smile” on the cover. Second, a lot of painstaking work has gone into improving the book since the previous draft was taken down from this site. For this, I am grateful to my colleague D., who agreed to spend hours with me going through the manuscript, virtually word-for-word, in an attempt to make the prose as elegant as possible — the occasional profanity notwithstanding. Third, I would love it for my publisher — who took a chance on this book after many others shirked or sneered — to reap some kind of reward from the book’s publication.
Because the book has no section dedicated to “acknowledgments,” I want to take the opportunity now to publicly thank some people without whom the book might never have seen the light of day (or wouldn’t have turned out quite as well). Aside from the aforementioned, I want to thank my good friend C., who has spent months promoting this work. Given that there was certainly nothing in it for him, I have often been touched by the relentlessness with which he helped get this out. In addition, I want to thank BangkokPundit, the guys at New Mandala, and Freedom Against Censorship Thailand for calling attention to the book. I also owe a debt of gratitude to Professor B.J. Terwiel, who agreed to my request to print a comment of his on the back cover.
I should add that the experience of writing this book was personally enriching beyond anything I had ever written before. Perhaps the best thing to happen in the past year was the opportunity to make the acquaintance of people who at different times happened to stumble on this site — academics, writers, artists, journalists, and regular readers. While a few have since become good friends, I am frequently moved by the words of encouragement and support I receive from people I barely know and, most often, have never met. Regardless of how well or how poorly this book does commercially, on a personal level it has already been a smashing success. So thank you — to all of you who took the time to read my work and contribute your opinions.
Though the timing of the book’s release is entirely fortuitous, I don’t think I could have chosen a more opportune time had I been given the chance. Many thanks to Mark Hanusz at Equinox for the amazing opportunity to publish this book, precisely at the kind of critical juncture that renders it most timely.